Wood filler is a fantastic tool for filling gaps in most woodworking projects. The substance has a woody texture and can easily be painted or stained to look like wood, but what about using it on your floors? Will wood filler also work to repair hardwood floors?
You can use wood filler on hardwood floors to fill in minor nicks, holes, and gaps in wood flooring. Once completely dry, the filler can be sanded and stained to mimic actual wood. However, the filler doesn’t contract or expand during weather changes, which can cause minor issues in some climates.
In the rest of this article, I will discuss the process of filling floor gaps with wood filler and when wood filler needs to be applied. I will also go over common issues to watch out for when using wood filler and the types of filler available. If you want to learn more about fixing wood floors with wood filler, read on.
How to Fill Hardwood Floor Gaps With Wood Filler
Using wood filler to fix holes or gaps in a hardwood floor is relatively simple. The primary goal of using wood filler is to fill the gaps or holes with a substance that will harden and mostly mimic the wood’s texture. However, it’s important to note that wood filler is often noticeable unless you stain or paint it after filling.
To fill gaps in your hardwood floor, you will need the following:
- Broom or vacuum.
- Damp rag or mop.
- Putty knife.
- Fine sandpaper 120-150 grit.
You can use an oscillating or orbital sander for sanding the filler, but that’s only recommended if you’re restoring the whole floor or the area you’re filling. It’s still essential to sand gently so as not to warp the hardwood floors.
Here’s how to fill hardwood floor gaps using wood filler:
- Clean out the gaps thoroughly. Generally, hardwood floors get very dirty, and it’s important to clean any gaps or cracks before using the wood filler. If dirt particles mix with the filler material, it can weaken the filling and cause it to pop out or break. Fortunately, running a vacuum over the place will easily clear the spots. [10 Reasons Why Your Hardwood Floors Are Always Dirty]
- Wipe down the floor around the gaps. The floor surface also needs to be clean, as this is where the wood filler will adhere. Dirt and grime result in a weaker bond to the hardwood floor and can sometimes result in cracking.
- Use the filler to fill in the hardwood floor gaps. The filler needs to get into the gaps or spots so the substance can fill these indentations. You can use a putty knife or your finger to apply the filler. It’s okay if the filler is slightly raised, as you’ll fix that during the sanding process.
- Let the filler dry completely. Each brand will have slightly different drying times, so following the instructions is essential. Wood filler sometimes cracks if it hasn’t had enough time to dry. It’s always best to err on the side of more drying time than too little.
- Sand the filler. Once the wood filler has completely dried into the hardwood flooring gaps, it’s time to get sanding. You want to be delicate when sanding the wood filler since you don’t want to scuff the wood floors too much. Use a fine grit around 120-150 to gently sand the filler.
Paint and Stain
Once done sanding the filler, you can start the staining/painting phase. Again, depending on the shade of filler you choose, you will have more or less color matching to do. Some people even go as far as to paint wood grains onto the filler to make it appear more realistic.
How closely you want the filler to look like hardwood is up to you and the amount of time you have. Moreover, some handymen are adept at mimicking hardwood floor patterns that can more easily mask repair work.
If you are more of a visual learner, I recommend watching the helpful DIY video below titled “How To Fill In Gaps Between Hardwood Flooring With Wood Filler.” It does a great job of walking you through the entire process and showcasing what the filler should look like when dry.
When To Use Wood Filler on Hardwood Floors
Before diving in and applying wood filler to your hardwood floors, it’s essential to know when to use it. Despite wood filler being a great tool, there are better options for filling hardwood floor gaps or holes. So when exactly should you use wood filler on hardwood flooring?
Some good reasons to use wood filler on hardwood floors are:
- Your floor has gaps and needs to be sanded and restained. Wood filler is excellent at accepting pigment and can easily be sanded without issues.
- The project is indoors. Wood filler is not an excellent outdoor solution due to extreme temperature changes and other weather-related issues. It is also prone to shrinkage, and these factors will increase that likelihood, thus cracking your filler. Luckily, it’s implausible for hardwood flooring to be outdoors.
- The gaps in your hardwood floor aren’t due to seasonal changes. Since wood expands and contracts with the weather, sometimes you end up with temporary gaps. However, wood filler is an excellent option if the gaps are constant.
As you can see, wood filler is handy for refinishing old projects, especially old hardwood floors. Additionally, since wood filler can be sanded away, you can always get rid of it with some elbow grease if it doesn’t meet your needs.
Common Issues With Using Wood Filler on Hardwood Floors
Other important factors to consider are the issues you might encounter when using wood filler on a hardwood floor. As I previously stated, the substance is beneficial; however, it still has its fair share of challenges when it comes to repairing hardwood floors.
There are only a few drawbacks to using wood filler to fill in hardwood floor gaps, but knowing what they are can help you avoid making a mistake.
These are some common wood filler issues you’ll encounter when repairing hardwood floors:
- The color doesn’t match well. Even if you purchase a wood filler that is already similarly colored to your hardwood floor, it will still likely be off and require some extra work to mimic your floors’ exact colorations. Color issues are what make wood filler ideal for floors that are being restained or painted.
- It doesn’t look like wood grains. Because wood filler isn’t actual wood, the formula can’t mimic the exact grains of the wood. The filler doesn’t look like natural hardwood, so the larger gaps will be more noticeable. However, you can go the extra mile and paint in the grains.
- It degrades slowly over time. Sadly, wood filler is not a permanent solution to your flooring gap problem. The filler eventually breaks down. When this happens, it looks terrible since it appears sandy. Fortunately, you can redo it, but it’s important to keep this in mind.
As you can see, there are a few drawbacks to using wood filler on your hardwood floors. However, wood filler is the simplest solution when filling in gaps on these floors. Understanding these issues will help you solve them in the future.
Wood filler’s main drawback is that it’s not a permanent solution to the problem. However, with care, the filler will last a long while, especially if you sand, stain, and seal it properly.
3 Best Hardwood Fillers for Hardwood Floors
Lastly, I’ll give you a quick review of a few commonly used wood fillers. Not all filler brands will last or even work well on hardwood floors, so choosing a product that will last and correctly fill in flooring gaps is essential.
I have put together my top 3 favorite wood fillers, which you can purchase through Amazon.
Minwax Stainable Wood Filler
This wood filler is fantastic because it’s easily sanded and formulated for indoor and outdoor use, making it highly durable. The formula is also fast drying and less susceptible to shrinkage, which is ideal for areas that experience extreme weather changes. This filler also accepts stains and paints very well, is relatively fast drying, and is easy to apply.
GoodFilla Water-Based Wood & Grain Filler
Another excellent wood filler option is GoodFilla’s wood grain filler. This formula is water-based and comes in several colors for better color-matching of your floors. In addition, the filler is designed to give off a flawless finish making repairs less noticeable.
Another great thing about this formula is its shelf life. When the filler dries out, you can easily reconstitute it for other projects.
Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood Filler
Lastly, there is also Elmer’s Carpenter’s Wood filler. This filler is more basic, but it’s ideal for smaller gaps in your wood floor. However, it’s still quite effective since it’s resistant to shrinkage and can easily be sanded. Plus, you can purchase a small container before committing to fixing your floor gaps with a single product.
Ultimately, you can use wood filler on hardwood floors. A filler is a fantastic way to repair dents, dings, holes, and gaps in old wood flooring. Filling hardwood floor gaps is simple and can be done with simple tools and little woodworking knowledge.
However, it’s important to note that wood filler is a temporary solution. You will likely have to redo your work somewhere down the road as filler degrades over time. Replacing parts or an entire hardwood floor is a much cheaper alternative.